“Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.” (via Goodreads)
Monty isn’t an easy character to like by any means. On the surface he has more negative qualities than good ones, but there’s so much more going on with him than meets the eye. At the start of the novel he’s heedless, rakish, and self-centered. By the end he still is but with an overlaying maturity and sense of responsibility to temper the worst bits. His character development isn’t a complete overhaul, but he does end up better than when he started. He earns Percy and Felicity’s respect and friendship rather than assuming he deserved it because of his privilege.
What makes Monty such a great character is his capacity to learn from his (many … like, so, so many) mistakes. Monty fails repeatedly throughout the novel, from simple tasks to strategies to understanding his companions. But what’s important is that he both learns why he was wrong and how he can be better in the future. In particular, when Percy or Felicity challenge him on things where his white male privilege has blinded him to other perspectives, he shuts up and listens. It doesn’t matter that he can’t always relate to what they’re dealing with; he listens to their complaints, accepts them as truth, then does his best to use his privileged position to improve theirs, just like a good ally should. Or, to put in Monty’s terminology, “Perspective is a goddamn son of a bitch.”…
To read the rest of my review of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, head over to Tor.com.
The great tragic love story of Percy and me is neither great nor truly a love story, and is tragic only for its single-sidedness. It is also not an epic monolith that has plagued me since boyhood, as might be expected. Rather, it is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth.
A long, slow slide, then a sudden impact.
Though the story of Percy and me—the account sans love and tragedy—is forever. As far back as I can remember, Percy has been in my life. We’ve ridden and hunted and sunbathed and reveled together since we were barely old enough to walk, fought and made up and run amok across the countryside. We’ve shared all our firsts—first lost tooth, first broken bone, first school day, the first time we were ever sweet on a girl (though I have always been more vocal about and passionate in my infatuations than Percy). First time drunk, when we were reading at our parsonage’s Easter service but got foxed on nicked wine before. We were just sober enough to think we were subtle about it and just tipsy enough that we were likely as subtle as a symphony.
Thanks to Katherine Tegen Books for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.